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The NFL draft just blew through our city, attracting over 500,000 folks. It’s the biggest event ever to hit Nashville. Just five days earlier, the resurrection of Jesus was the center focus in churches throughout the area. I found the juxtaposition of these two striking. What does the draft have to do with Jesus? And what do sports have to do with the resurrection? Here are three connection points.
1. There are echoes of the resurrection in all sports. As a former high school coach, I saw endless parallels to the gospel in athletics. This was only repeated in my experience of the NFL draft. As I watched it unfold on TV, I saw the longing of fans to participate in a drama bigger than their atomistic lives. They set their hopes on the success of their teams, cheering on the picks as they were announced. They dressed in the team colors, identifying themselves with that team. And they traveled long distances, showing their commitment to their team’s cause.
This longing to be in a larger story is a clarion echo of the great story of all time, told in the Bible. It’s the story of the great Hero who came of His own accord to rescue humanity, dying for their sins and unexpectedly coming back to life. He asks us now to set our hopes on the success of His kingdom, to identify with His name, and to commit ourselves to His cause.
2. All sports can become disordered loves. But the echo in sports is so easily misunderstood. Instead of being heard as derivative of a primary sound, it is taken as the sound itself. A man gorges on appetizers with the entire meal still ahead of him. A woman repeatedly reads a book’s preface, forgetting to move on to the story. A child settles for playing in the sandbox, refusing the invitation to the beach. There is fundamental misunderstanding in each of these, so fundamental that it looks foolish. We are loving in a disordered way. When I think of how sports, especially football, is viewed in our culture, I see the same foolishness. To turn a derivative goodness into a primary one sounds the alarm for impending disaster. It becomes a disordered love — disordered because it sets up penultimate things as ultimate and disordered because of the chaos it unleashes in the human soul. The time, energy, and money put into sports can never return the promised dividends.
But with the resurrection of Jesus, something new has happened. There is a new order being unleashed in the world. And the gist of that new order is ordered loves. To love the risen Son of God above all other loves is to set things right in the human soul. He becomes the foundation of our being, the strength of our daily lives, and the hope for our longings. A daily dialogue with the living Christ will reap more dividends than we can imagine.
3. Sports are noisy. The resurrection is a whisper. Having said all of this, the hard fact is that our ears are so easily captured by sports. It is everywhere in our digital feeds, our TV stations, and our radio networks. It holds our attention because it is so loud. By contrast, the reality of the resurrected Christ seems like a whisper lost in the wind. You have to lean in to hear it, and even then it is easily forgotten. Yet if the advice of the Bible is wisdom, it is worth leaning in to listen. One day, this whisper will overtake the noise. One day, the resurrection will redefine all reality, including sports. Even now, that redefining is happening in those who lean in to listen.
And the kingdoms of this world will one day become the kingdom of Christ, and He will reign forever (Rev. 11:15). Yes, Lord, may it be so.